Disability.gov has shared some great ideas to consider,
10 Things to Know before Going Back to School
- Back to School. Summer is coming to an end and parents, teachers and students are preparing to head back to the classroom. This can be a stressful time, but there are ways to make the transition easier. These include making sure to allow time for your child to adjust to changes in routine and wake-up and bedtimes. The new school year means new teachers, classmates, and for some students, a new school. The Child Mind Institute hastips to help parents prepare their child for changing schools. Parents should purchase schools supplies in advance; your school may have a list, but here are some suggestions to get you started. You may also want to set an end-of-day routine for when your children get home from school. It’s important to realize that some students, including those with learning disabilities, may need to use different learning strategies. A range of tools and techniques are available to help meet the needs of students with disabilities. They include assistive technologies, adapted teaching methods and alternative communication strategies. Find more back-to-school resources and tips.
- IDEA and Section 504. Some of the most important special education services are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. IDEA ensures that school-age children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education. It also provides for special education services, including an individualized education program (IEP). The IEP contains goals for the student and spells out the services that will be provided, which are decided by a team of individuals involved in the student’s education. A Section 504 plan can be an alternative to the IEP and outlines how a child’s specific needs can be met with modifications and services to remove barriers to learning. So, how are these two laws different? Section 504’s definition of disability is broader: a child is eligible if they have a mental or physical disability that limits major life activity, a record of the disability or is regarded as having a disability. There are alsodifferences between IDEA and Section 504 in how funds are used, how students are evaluated and the process used that’s used if a parent disagrees with the identification, evaluation or placement of a student.
- Finding Homework Help. When the school day is over, it’s time to get started on homework, which can sometimes be a source of frustration and anxiety. Friendship Circle, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization, has a blog post that includes “Nine Tips to Make Homework Manageable.” LD Online also offers a variety of articles to help children and youth with learning disabilities with note taking, time management and learning strategies. Understood’s “Homework & Study Skills” section includes an article on “7 Tips for Improving Your Child’s Homework & Study Skills.” Ideas include creating a designated “homework station” where your child feels relaxed and focused. It also suggests using a color-coded system to organize schoolwork. It can be challenging for parents to understand just how involved they should get with their children’s homework. This article fromGreatSchools helps parents find the right balance so they can support their children while letting them complete tasks independently. If disorganization affects your child’s ability to succeed in school, watch thisvideo for ways to improve organizational skills.
- Antsy about Tests. Feeling very nervous, anxious or stressed when it’s time to take a test in school is known as “test anxiety.” This is a common experience among students, but there are many ways to reduce these feelings. These stress-buster ideas can help your child relax before a test. Understood, a website with information about learning and attention disabilities, has tips to help grade-schoolers, middle-schoolers andhigh-schoolers who get anxious before tests. One way to reduce test-related stress is by developing goodorganizational and study skills. There are also test-taking tips and strategies that students with learning disabilities can use to help prevent or reduce anxiety. In addition, students with disabilities and their parents should know about the types of accommodations they can request to make test-taking more accessible. These can include extra time on tests, distraction-free rooms and alternative testing methods.
- The Basics about Bullying. As your children gets ready to go back to school, take some time to talk with them about the differences and disabilities that other children may have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Kids’ Quest on Disability and Health is a helpful resource that parents can use to teach children about many types of disabilities. You can also use these suggested phrases to explain disability to children of all ages. By talking to your children about disabilities, you can play an important role in preventing bullying in school. Teach your children to recognize the signs of bullying and take steps to learn about bullying and disabilities. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, studies show that children with disabilities experience bullying more frequently than children without disabilities. Bullying can affect a child’s ability to learn. There are federal laws that protect children with disabilities from bullying. The U.S. Department of Education also has guidance on keeping students with disabilities safe from bullying. For more information on how to prevent bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.
- Service Animals in Schools. Service animals assist people with sight or hearing issues, mental health disabilities, seizure disorders, autism and other disabilities and health conditions. There are several federal civil rights laws that protect the rights of people who use service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) guarantees a student with a disability has the right to use a service animal at school. Emotional support animals, therapy animals and companion animals aren’t covered by the ADA. They also aren’t typically allowed to accompany students in public schools. However, the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Actprovide for the use of an animal that doesn’t meet the ADA definition of a service animal if that student’s IEP or Section 504 team decide the animal is necessary to meet the student’s educational needs. Many states have laws that include a different definition of a service animal. Check with your state’s protection and advocacy agency if you have any questions or concerns about the use of service animals in schools.
- Eating Right at Lunchtime. Getting kids to eat healthy foods can be challenging for parents. The good news is that there’s a lot of information out there to help children and teens make healthy food choices. If a student is eating a breakfast or lunch that’s part of the National School Lunch Program, there are specific dietary standards for sodium and calorie content and fruit, vegetable and whole grain components of each meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has resources to help schools meet these standards and ensure that school meals are healthy. If you decide packing lunches and snacks is a better option for you and your child, there are cost effective and nutritious ways to do this. Kids with Down syndrome or autism may have certain dietary restricts or aversions which need to be considered when planning school lunches. The Let’s Move Campaign has a videofeaturing the White House Executive Chef on making school lunches using federal My PlateChooseMyPlate.gov also offers a sample two-week menu for eating on a budget, which includes ideas for healthy school lunches.
- Inclusive Physical Education. Physical activity is important for all children, including those with disabilities. Studies have shown that young people with disabilities are more likely to be obese than their nondisabled peers, and exercise is a key part of maintaining a healthy weight. Schools have certain obligations under the IDEA to include students with disabilities in physical education classes. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also contains regulations that ensure students with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in after school sports. This U. Department of Education guide helps schools provide inclusive and adaptive physical education opportunities for students with disabilities. The American Association of Adapted Sports Programsalso provides information to help schools develop programs that include students with disabilities in after school sports. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability has resources for educators, including videos about Section 504 regulations and inclusive physical education. In addition, the White House’s “Sports for All” and “I Can Do It, You Can Do It!” initiatives promote the importance of physical fitness programs for students with disabilities.
- Tips for College Bound Students with Disabilities. Starting college can be an exciting time, but it comes with a unique set of challenges. There are several things students with disabilities can do to make the transition to college go more smoothly. One is to contact their college or university’s disability student services office to learn about supports and accommodations for students with disabilities. Be aware that IDEA no longer covers students once they’ve graduated from high school. Legal protections for post-high school students are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The use of service dogs and emotional support animals in student housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504. Read this guide from the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about the rights of college students with disabilities. ThinkCollege offers advice from college students with intellectual disabilities, and theGoing to College website explains the major differences between high school and college. To learn more, visit Disability.gov’s planning for college section.
- Learning to Speak for Yourself. If you’re a student with a disability, self-advocacy skills are important for you to develop as you grow older. There are three key parts to being a self-advocate in school. First, know your needs. Then, learn what accommodations can support your needs. Finally, learn how to communicate your needs to teachers. “Youth in Action! Becoming a Stronger Self-Advocate” helps students with disabilities learn more about self-advocacy. An especially good time to practice being a self-advocate is during IEP meetings. This can help you as you begin to prepare for finishing high school or college. If you’re getting ready to graduate from high school this guide from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) for Youth is a great tool for thinking about next steps. Students just starting or getting ready to graduate from college can read the “Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities“ to prepare for the future. There are also resources and organizations for self-advocates with specific types of disabilities, including spinal cord injuries andautism. Visit Self Advocacy Online to learn more.
Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #DisabilityConnection to talk to us about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts in the community.
Read past issues of the 'Disability Connection' newsletter.